WASHINGTON — The enthusiasm and skills of Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs) provide outreach to millions of national park visitors each year. In 2017, more than 315,600 volunteers donated more than 7.2 million hours of service in national parks, performing just about every job imaginable.
Today, during National Park Week, National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith announced the recipients of the national 2017 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service. George Hartzog was the director of the National Park Service from 1964 to 1972 and created the VIP program during his tenure. After his retirement, Hartzog and his wife, Helen, created an endowment to honor the efforts of exceptional volunteers.
“These awards recognize the outstanding achievements of volunteers who have had a significant impact on parks, programs, and communities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. “These fantastic volunteers have introduced people to the beauty and wonder of national parks, revitalized programs and park operations, and shared important messages of conservation and preservation.”
The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Washington, DC this summer. Following are the recipients of the 2017 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
Outstanding Volunteer Service, Youth Award
Nicholas Gilson, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Wisconsin
For his Eagle Scout project, Nick raised donations for the materials needed to rebuild 120 feet of fencing, six interpretive sign posts, two benches, and two directional trail signs for a 1,050 foot-high overlook. He also recruited dozens of volunteers who devoted about 500 hours of time to craft, transport, and install these features atop Bald Bluff.
Outstanding Volunteer Service, Individual Award
Doug Riddle, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Since 2016, Doug has completely overhauled the parks fire cache, repairing equipment, tools, and vehicles, including restoring a E-461 fire engine to operational standards. Doug’s leadership brought life to the park’s fire management program and rejuvenated interest among park employees to renew their wildfire certifications.
Enduring Service Award
Georgene Charles, Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland
For 30 years, Georgene has organized all of the volunteers, supplies, and logistics for the park’s inspirational Annual Memorial Illumination. Each year, approximately 1,500 volunteers build and light 23,110 luminaries and place them on the field to represent the casualties of the battle. It is the largest illumination of its kind and draws more than ten thousand visitors annually.
Outstanding Volunteer Service, Youth Group Award
Shark Stewards, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California
The Shark Stewards program works with local schools to educate students about the San Francisco Bay ecosystem and wildlife. A field component includes a park visit to perform surveys and clean marine debris. Since 2016, more than 650 youth have learned about the park and lessened human impacts on the environment through community service. The debris collected includes more than 35,000 cigarette butts which inspired the film, “Hang Onto Your Butts.”
Outstanding Volunteer Service, Group Award
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Education Team, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
The 25 volunteers on the park’s education team provided the support needed to enable more than 14,000 Title one students to visit a national park for the first time last year. The volunteers help the students make memories and encourage them to become life-long park stewards.
Outstanding Park Volunteer Program
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Volunteers-In-Parks Program, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado
In 2017, volunteers enabled this small park with a staff of just nine employees to provide outreach to more than 70,000 visitors, including 4,000 junior rangers. The park’s 457 volunteers staffed the visitor center desk, organized an extremely popular monthly Night Sky Program, surveyed 54 miles of boundary fencing, and improved 20-percent of the park’s hiking trails.
SOURCE: National Park Service press release